IVF Cultures and Histories

Suzanne Anker: Stem Cells (04). Inkjet Print 13×19″

IVF Cultures and Histories

IVF Cultures and Histories

Perhaps no other biomedical promise has inspired as much hope and caused as much controversy as pluripotent ‘stem’ cells. They have been feted as a cure to all diseases, if diseased could be replaced with genetically identical healthy cells. Human embryonic stem cells, first isolated in 1998, were shown to be in much better condition and easier to identify than adult ones; yet producing them from ‘spare’ or deliberately created new embryos immediately clashed with anti-abortion politics. In the U.S. since 2001 federal funding has been allowed for research on 64 existing human embryonic stem cell lines only. These restrictions pushed embryo research into an unregulated private sector.

In the Golden Boy series Suzanne Anker, a pioneer of the bio art movement, uses polyurethane foam to build sculptures inspired by human stem cells. Highly politicized in the United States, because stem cells are harvested from human fetuses, they point to the promise of human plasticity of the species’ ability to create its own replacement parts. Creating shapes of luminescent beauty that evoke human fetuses and organs, Anker’s work remarks on the ambiguities of stem cells, tying them to the longer and equally fraught history of fetal specimen collection. For more about Suzanne Anker and her work, see the essay and interview “Specimens as Spectacles: Reframing Fetal Remains” in this issue of Social Text (Franklin, Sarah and Anker, Suzanne: Social Text. Interspecies, Volume 29, Number 1 106. Duke University Press, Spring 2011, pp. 103-125)

Suzanne Anker will be a leading discussant at IVF Cultures and Histories Launch event, at the University of Cambridge in the UK, co-sponsored by Christ’s College, the Wellcome Trust, the ESRG and the British Academy.  Twenty-five noted scholars from a range of disciplines spanning the arts, humanities and sciences join in exploring the question: “When Bob Edwards looked at an embryo, what did he see?” Bob Edwards was awarded the Nobel Prize for the devlopment of in vitro fertilization which led to the birth of the first “test tube” baby, Louise Brown in 1978.

cambridge

IVF Cultures and Histories

June, 2014

ReproSoc 
Reproductive Sociology Research Group
http://www.reprosoc.sociology.cam.ac.uk/

Cambridge University
The Old Schools, Trinity Ln,
Cambridge CB2 1TN
UK